Are 404s and a 410s Treated Differently By Google?

16 Apr Are 404s and a 410s Treated Differently By Google?

In a recent video, Google’s Matt Cutts addressed a question about the differences between a 404 versus a 410 code on a website. This type of information could be beneficial for webmasters who are trying to understand the right http:// status codes, and there are a few basic things that you need to know.

What are 404s and 410s?

In order for you to apply the answer to this question, it is important that you have an understanding about how these codes can affect your website. These types of codes can impact the way your website is crawled by Google, which means that there can be an effect on how your website pages rank in the search engines.

When a Google bot or a browser asks for a page on a website, the website will send back a status code for that particular page. For example, if it sends a code such as 200, then it means that the page was fine. But, sometimes the bot or the browser might ask for the page and receive a 404 code, which means that the page is no longer found in that location. A 410 code usually means that the page cannot be found at all, and it is not expected to come back again.

The main difference between a 404 and a 410, is that with a 410 the assumption can be made that the webpage has been deleted permanently. So how does this difference apply to your website?

Managing 404 and 410 Codes on Your Website

If you have a webpage that has been temporarily removed, or moved to a different location, then a 404 code is the best option in this situation. On the other hand, if the page is gone and not expected to return, then the 410 code applies.

For the most part, these two codes are treated very similarly by Google… generally a webmaster shouldn’t worry too much about the differences. The most important aspect is to make sure that there aren’t any missing pages on your website.

How Google Crawls 404s and 410s

Having missing pages can often result in bad news for a webmaster, and there are several situations that might result in these types of error codes:

  • A page might be deleted or moved
  • The website might go down for a little while
  • The site was misconfigured
  • The site was hacked
  • Google bot was blocked on the website (either accidentally or intentionally)

If the Google bot finds a 404 page, then the page will be protected for 24 hours. Basically, it is put on hold to see if it was a temporary mistake, so that the crawling and indexing of the page can resume as soon as the page is active again.

If the Google bot finds a 410, then the page is immediately dismissed without the 24 hour waiting period, because it is assumed that the page won’t be coming back. The assumption is that the webmaster knew what they were doing with the code, so the Google bot can pass by the page since it won’t be updated with newer information.

Don’t Make Assumptions

Even though these are general practices by Google bots, it is important that you don’t always make the assumption about how your site will be viewed through the 404 or 410 codes. Sometimes, the bots might come back later to see if the page was updated or renewed with fresh information, although it can be unpredictable about how quickly that will happen.

As a webmaster, it is important that you don’t get too caught up in these small types of details. Instead, it is better to focus on providing good quality content for your readers, and you can have the peace of mind to know that Google is working to find good content when it is made available… regardless of the previous code on the page location.